An age of mystery and magic…Of swords and sorcery. (Of nausea and pain.)
When I was a kid, my grandparents lived far away, in Montana, and didn't visit us very often. When they did, it was quite the special occasion. My grandpa loved smoked fish and other delicacies, so when he arrived in town we would head to the local fish and seafood store for smoked fish of all imaginable varieties, along with headcheese and other exotic goodies. Grandpa and I would chow down on the stuff, tasting all the different species of fish to see which ones we liked best. Then, one time, we got a bad batch of fish. Grandpa and I spent the next five days with food poisoning so bad it was all I could do to crawl across the hallway to the bathroom every fifteen minutes. I haven't eaten smoked fish since.
What, you may ask, does this story have to do with today's feature presentation? Aside from being more interesting than the movie, well, everything. I love swords and sorcery flicks, and I am usually more forgiving than most when it comes to this genre. I love everything from the Conan flicks to The Sword and the Sorcerer to mediocre recent fare like The Scorpion King. I'm perfectly happy whiling away the hours watching monosyllabic dudes in loincloths swinging swords and rescuing a variety of scantily-clad women. However, The Warrior and the Sorceress, like that long-ago episode of food poisoning, has seriously dulled my appetite for something I used to love.
Facts of the Case
If you've seen Yojimbo or A Fistful of Dollars, then there's not much I need to explain about The Warrior and the Sorceress. A lone, mysterious swordsman wanders into an isolated village. He finds the village terrorized by two warring factions vying for control—in this case, control of the well that is the village's sole water supply. Being the only person in town with half a brain, he begins to make himself rich by playing the two sides against each other and shifting his alliances back and forth with amazing impunity. At the end, the two baddies are undone by a combination of their own "clever" schemes and the work of the mysterious warrior.
I realize that I just spoiled the entire plot of the movie for you, and I didn't even mention the sorceress. Perhaps you can draw your own conclusion—that her only real function in the movie is to get rescued repeatedly and run around mostly naked a lot. Yee-ha.
If you want a more detailed plot synopsis, don't ask me for it—head on over to the IMDb, where flacks from New Concorde have already provided one for you.
This is the sort of movie full of meaningless standoffs where two groups of warriors yell "Grrr!" and "Arrr!" at each other a lot. It is the sort of move that has so much tasteless, pointless nudity that it loses whatever prurient appeal it might once have had. The nudity in The Warrior and the Sorceress reminds me of what a wise man once said about the poetry of Gertrude Stein: It's like wallpaper. Once you get the pattern, you don't need to look at the whole thing. This is the sort of movie where one of the chief heavies drowns a naked girl in a transparent tank for all of his cronies to enjoy as entertainment, and carries on a business conversation while it happens. It is ugly, mean-spirited, exploitative, illogical, and boring. It lacks any sense of adventure or fun; even the few jokes and sight gags are decidedly mean-spirited in nature. Given all that, it will surprise no one that The Warrior and the Sorceress is a New Concorde release. Roger Corman has contributed far more to the world of film than he gets credit for, but that doesn't give him a free pass when his company releases effluvium like this from its vaults.
I could go on, but I think it's time for me to crawl across the hall again…
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Even in all this muck, there are a few gems. First of all, the plot as conceived isn't all that bad, the execution being another matter entirely. When you're ripping off Kurosawa and Leone, you have to go to some extreme lengths to totally screw things up. Even the people who made this piece of refuse aren't so determinedly bad as to accomplish that.
Second, David Carradine is, well, David Carradine, As bad as the material might be, he does manage to elevate it somewhat. He provides us with a reasonably good stand-in for Mifune or Eastwood, and he's pretty good with a sword to boot. He seems to be laboring under the delusion that he is in a real movie, and he gives a surprisingly adequate performance. None of the rest of the cast appears to share his delusion, and as a result none of them approach adequacy.
Should you decide to actually watch this, you will find the video transfer to be surprisingly good, as long as you watch the movie from the next room. I'm only partly kidding; sitting back at a normal viewing distance—say, six to eight feet—the picture quality looks pretty good. Colors are surprisingly good and the source print is in surprisingly good condition. There are some scenes where the sharpness is breathtaking, and fine details like the smoke from a torch really stand out in the frame. Close up, however, a multitude of artifacts crop up, generally around any clearly defined edge in the frame. Check out Carradine's robe in Chapter 2 (and elsewhere); the edges of the red stripe against the black robe are full of artifacting and bleeding. There is a huge amount of ghosting in the image, so that almost every solid object has a faint halo around it; this appears to be due to bleeding, as the halos are quite soft, compared to the harder-edged ones caused by excessive edge enhancement. The source print is quite grainy in places, which is to be expected. However, what is not to be expected are the strange vertical artifacts running through the entire frame; close up it looks as though the whole movie was printed on corduroy rather than filmstock. Again, these don't show up very clearly from a normal distance, but they are pretty pronounced closer up. Of course, if you are actually watching this flick it's probably not for the picture quality, so you probably won't mind it that much. Also on the downside, the transfer is full-frame, but that's not as big an issue here as it would be on almost any other movie. To paraphrase Mitch Hedberg, it's not like the flick has any artistic integrity to begin with.
Audio is Dolby 2.0 Stereo. It is adequate. It is nothing special. It is no worse, and probably much better, than this festering boil of a film deserves.
Believe it or not, there are some extra features on this disc. Filmographies are provided for Carradine, our apparel-challenged sorceress Maria Socas, wench-drowning bad guy Luke Askew, and henchman/fight choreographer Anthony De Longis. De Longis isn't much of an actor, but thanks to him some of the swordplay scenes are actually not too badly done. We get to see the trailer for The Warrior and the Sorceress, notable chiefly because a large percentage of its footage comes from other Z-grade flicks. We get a gallery of production art, which consists of two (2) paintings, one of which is used as the box and menu art. The other one may be from a different movie, I'm not sure. Finally, there are trailers for the rest of New Concorde's swords and sorcery pictures: Barbarian Queen, Barbarian Queen II, Deathstalker, Deathstalker II, Deathstalker IV, and Amazons. I've seen some of those, and from what I can tell of the others, it is some consolation that The Warrior and the Sorceress is the best of the bunch. Ugh.
I first saw The Warrior and the Sorceress when I was in the eighth or ninth grade. I remembered it as being a lot better than it actually is, and I had looked forward to its arrival on DVD. How sadly, sadly wrong I was. I'm going to go take a shower now.
Guilty! This is one bad batch of smoked fish. Keep away from it or you might get sick too.
We stand adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Concorde
• Theatrical Trailer
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